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Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

State Representative Ross Hunter tells 48th District Democrats he’s “staying in the House”

State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ross Hunter (D‑48th Dis­trict: Belle­vue, Red­mond, Kirk­land, Clyde Hill, Med­i­na, the Points com­mu­ni­ties) announced this evening that he has decid­ed against a bid for the state Sen­ate in the wake of Rod­ney Tom’s retire­ment, and will instead run for reelec­tion to the House of Representatives.

At the April month­ly meet­ing of the 48th Dis­trict Democ­rats, Hunter declared, “I am stay­ing in the House.” Acknowl­edg­ing the ram­pant spec­u­la­tion that began in the wake of Rod­ney Tom’s retire­ment announce­ment on Mon­day, he observed that as the chair­man of the Ways & Means Com­mit­tee (the cham­ber’s top bud­get writer), he is an excel­lent posi­tion to con­tin­ue work­ing on the issues that he cares about, includ­ing some of the struc­tur­al prob­lems our state faces.

Hunter’s seat­mate, Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Cyrus Habib, also addressed the meet­ing and used his time to urge sup­port for Propo­si­tion 1, the mea­sure to save Metro and fund bad­ly need­ed road repairs. He did not bring up the Sen­ate race dur­ing his remarks, and no one attempt­ed to put him on the spot about it.

Joan McBride, who has been run­ning for state Sen­ate with the endorse­ments of both Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Hunter and Habib, told the 48th Dis­trict Democ­rats that although she had not been expect­ing Rod­ney Tom to quit the race, she is com­mit­ted to fin­ish­ing the cam­paign for Sen­ate that she began sev­er­al months ago. (Her pre­sen­ta­tion to the orga­ni­za­tion pre­ced­ed Hunter’s and Habib’s).

McBride’s sup­port­ers have been point­ing out that Joan stepped up to run for Sen­ate at a time when oth­er poten­tial can­di­dates had bowed out, hav­ing decid­ed for one rea­son or anoth­er not to chal­lenge Rod­ney Tom. This is cer­tain­ly true, but there’s no guar­an­tee that McBride would remain the sole Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­date in the race even if Habib were not to run. Tom’s retire­ment has cre­at­ed an open seat, and it’s not uncom­mon for open seats to bring can­di­dates out of the woodwork.

If Habib does declare for Sen­ate, McBride could choose to run for the House seat he would then have to vacate, as I observed on Monday.

In run­ning for House, McBride would have a high­er like­li­hood of join­ing a cau­cus that will be in the major­i­ty fol­low­ing the midterms. House Democ­rats cur­rent­ly have fifty-five seats and are expect­ed to still have about that many seats after Novem­ber 2014 has come and gone. Sen­ate Democ­rats, on the oth­er hand, need to have a net gain of two seats in Novem­ber to reclaim the majority.

What is hap­pen­ing now in the 48th is not unusu­al. Retire­ments often set off games of musi­cal chairs and pro­vide plen­ty of grist for the rumor mill in the process.

For instance, sev­er­al years ago, attor­ney David Frockt decid­ed to chal­lenge long­time Demo­c­ra­t­ic Sen­a­tor Ken Jacob­sen in the 46th. He launched his cam­paign dur­ing the win­ter­time and began cam­paign­ing ener­get­i­cal­ly for the position.

Pri­or to the close of fil­ing, how­ev­er, Jacob­sen opt­ed to retire, and then-State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scott White swift­ly declared his can­di­da­cy for Jacob­sen’s seat.

Frockt then opt­ed to run for White’s House seat rather than stay in the race for Sen­ate and face White. They each won their respec­tive races sev­er­al months lat­er. White moved over to the Sen­ate, and Frockt took White’s place in the House.

Trag­i­cal­ly, in late 2011, White died, and Frockt was appoint­ed to suc­ceed him in the Sen­ate by the King Coun­ty Coun­cil, act­ing on the advice of the 46th Dis­trict Democ­rats and the King Coun­ty Demo­c­ra­t­ic Cen­tral Committee.

In a sec­ond twist, to fill the vacan­cy cre­at­ed by Frock­t’s move over to the Sen­ate, the Coun­cil chose Ger­ry Pol­let (again on the advice of the 46th LD Democ­rats and KCDCC) who was Scott White’s oppo­nent in the 2008 elec­tion for state House.

Fil­ing week is now less than a month away, so we will soon have a clear­er pic­ture of who will be run­ning for what, and where. One thing we know as of tonight: Ross Hunter will be run­ning for reelec­tion to the State House of Representatives.

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